I see it... but I don't quite believe it.
Another shift with my new student (can you believe they let me mentor someone new?) and he's getting used to working the night shifts. We discussed things we've seen, things we'd like to see, things we'd never want to see. It's the crazy time in a night shift, the one where the wall of tiredness hits head-on, and where anything can happen. Minor hallucinations are a common thing in the dead of night. The tired mind plays tricks on its owner. I remember thinking once that I was seeing a baby crawling in the road at about 4am, only to realise that it was a plastic bag blowing in the wind.
As we drive over the brow of a hill heading to yet another call during this non-stop run of shifts, I think my brain is up to its old tricks again. We're two hours before the end of the shift, haven't stopped all night, and only eaten bits and pieces on the run. I'm sitting in the back, and looking through the front where the driver for the night and said student sit. Out of the corner of my eye, I see two little kids, probably three, four years old, running towards the road, then back onto the pavement, and then just up and down by the side of the tarmac.
It's too late for kids to be up, let alone out on the streets.
The vehicle comes to an abrupt halt, and I jump out the back door. The blue lights of the ambulance illuminate the entire street, and it won't be long before the curtain-twitchers are out in force. The kids see me coming towards them, and head for an open front door. I follow them and as I peer in to the house, I see that there are several supposedly responsible adults there, awake, watching TV or just talking. Cans of beer sit on one of the surfaces, and empty boxes of takeaway food are strewn all over the floor.
"Did you know that your kids are running around on the streets at five in the morning?" The response comes in the form of raucous laughter and does nothing to calm me down.
"It's fine!", starts one of them. "They don't go far!"
"Well, one of them nearly got run over by an ambulance!"
"So we'll sue the ambulance service" they laugh. "They're fine. Leave them alone, and leave us alone."
With that, they slam the door in my face and carry on with their irresponsible parenting. Or partying, if you prefer. Furious, I turn on my heels, walk back to the ambulance, advise control of the cause of the delay and that they might consider informing the police. At least in the mean time, the slammed door might mean the kids stay indoors.
We continue on our way to the original call, not quite comprehending.
Hopefully we saved some lives on the way to that call.
We were too late for the original patient.